Though Court-watchers were disappointed not to see a ruling on the two hottest pending cases this morning, they were pleased to receive one on a "takings clause" case that has gotten less attention. Small-government types scored a win with Horne v. Dept. of Agriculture, in which the Supreme Court ruled that the seizure of part of a farmer's raisin crop (nearly half in at least one year) constituted a "taking" that required due process as well as just compensation. In Orwellian fashion, the DOA had argued that they weren't really seizing the crop, because they permitted the farmer to retain a contingent interest in the proceeds of its later sale, at a time and price of the DOA's choosing. The Court sorted out that pretzel by observing that, once the crop is seized, any later payments come under the heading of "just compensation"--but the seizure itself still requires due process.
In further Orwellian fashion, the DOA had argued that the privilege of participating in interstate commerce is a benefit that the federal government may withhold unless the citizen waives constitutional rights. Of the nine Justices, only Sotomayor went for this one.
The ruling is interesting for the further reason that it clears up a controversy over whether "takings" jurisprudence is limited to real property; the Court held that it applies to personal property as well.
The raisin-confiscation program dated from the Depression and, like so many DOA plans, was intended to support prices. Justice Scalia noted, "Central planning was thought to work very well in 1937, and Russia tried it for a long time."